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This winter, you’ll be able to pay for Metro rides with your phone

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Pay for trains and buses with a swipe of the phone

TAP readers
Metro riders will still be able to use physical TAP cards once the app is live.

Riders on Los Angeles trains and buses will soon be able to pay for transit trips with a smartphone app, according to a presentation given today by Metro staff.

Metro executive officer Robin O’Hara told the agency’s Board of Directors’ finance committee that an app linked to the agency’s Transit Access Pass (TAP) system would be up-and-running by winter. In the meantime, Metro and other Los Angeles County transit agencies are upgrading fare boxes on local buses to accommodate the new payment system.

Once live, customers can continue loading physical TAP cards with passes and stored value. But they’ll also be able to download Metro’s new payment app, then swipe their phone when boarding.

The agency is also rolling out wearable TAP cards and key chains, giving riders an array of options for how to pay for transportation.

Already integrated with nearly all of the county’s major transit operators, TAP cards can be used on nearly any train or bus in the LA area. They can also be used to purchase a trip to LAX on the Flyaway shuttle or rent one of the bicycles available through Metro’s growing bike-share program.

O’Hara said the agency is also working with more than 20 other mobility providers, including private companies, to link the app with other modes of travel—from scooters to ride-hailing vehicles.

Metro has been working for at least two years on making the technology compatible with smartphones. In 2018, an agency spokesperson told Curbed the program would be up and running before the end of that year; it’s taken a bit longer to get going on the project.

In a demonstration of the mobile app, O’Hara noted that the smartphone tool would also allow riders to plan trips, look up routes, and get information on upcoming arrivals. The app is also configured to recognize and honor discounts for students, seniors, and low-income riders. Live user testing is expected to begin this fall.

Before that happens, Metro will partner with 7-Eleven and CVS to make it easier for customers to purchase physical TAP cards. The cards, which can right now be picked up at Metro vending machines and at some local stores, will also be available at these national chains starting this summer.